During the heady days of post-Azeroth consumer boom and investor interest, the MMORPG was booming. So many new games… and so many that didn’t meet expectations of consumers or investors. Now, 11 years after the launch of World of Warcraft, it’s clearer now than ever before: we need a hero to save us from extinction.
Okay, it’s probably not that dire. It’s clear, given the continued financial success of big IP MMOs (Guild Wars, SWTOR, WoW, FFXIV, etc) that the MMORPG can and will still make money. But of those previously listed games, only one truly deviates from the WoW formula in any meaningful way. I think it’s safe to say that trying to replicate said formula will only result in disappointment and heartbreak. It’s likely even safer to say that charging a subscription fee is a risk few big budget games should take.
There’s another thing: budget. Gone are the days where we’ll be seeing traditional MMORPGs with 100 million dollar budgets. They may come again; when some new mold is cast and the suits again want to chase a big success (see the current and already slowing MOBA craze). Throwing money at a development studio isn’t the path towards success, or even evolution. Say what you will about Pathfinder Online’s current state, former Goblinworks CEO Ryan Dancey was right when he suggested (at one of our PAX Panels) that WildStar would be the last big budget MMORPG developed in the West for a while.
So where does that leave us now? Look at the Hype tracker on the site. Notice that all of the top seven games are Indie or Imports, though the Indie status of Star Citizen is debatable. Heck, it alone is the outlier when it comes to budget too, and we’re all waiting to see that game will be even a fraction of the success its phenomenal crowdfunding initiative leads one to believe.
So will one of those upcoming games be our hero? Chronicles of Elyria, while sounding phenomenal on paper, still mostly exists only on paper. Soulbound Studios have a lot of work ahead of them and an actual game to show us before we can begin to get hopes up realistically. Crowfall is charging along at breakneck pace to deliver a new type of MMO experience next year, and from the looks of their pre-Alpha, the combat is on point. But it’s how the rest of the game with its complex crafting and dying worlds play out that has us waiting and seeing. Albion Online has a decent budget and a niche of being truly cross-platform to make it stand out, but we’re fairly certain its hardcore PVP slant will keep it from being a blockbuster. The same could be said of Gloria Victis, Crowfall, and even Camelot Unchained. The latter, Mark Jacobs true successor to DAoC has a lot of potential, and from what we see, some of the most interesting class design in ages.